Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shorts and Flip Flops

It's Thursday, July 17, 2009 and life is as usual in Streeterville. The mid-summer cumulus clouds are morphing into rain clouds and it is warm and humid out. Note that I say warm, not hot. My compatriots who live in places such as Little Rock, Dallas, and Austin have been weathering temps in the high 90s and low 100s for a long time now. The Streeterville Weather Service assures me that it is 79 degrees at the lake front just now. The water temperature is a comfy 70.

There are reasons that R.D. chooses to live in Chicago. Naysayers may point out that the weather in January and February is godawful cold and it was not too long ago that R.D. was grousing about this summer being cold (50 degree temps in June). R.D. would like to point out that he once upon a time lived in Minneapolis, and that is cold. Chicago is wussy in comparison. That is not to say that in January, when one walks out the front door onto the sidewalk on Lake Shore Drive, it isn't cold. The wind comes whipping off the lake and it cuts through you like a knife. It gets cold.

That is why they invented really warm coats, and hats, and gloves, and boots, and bars with fireplaces. See a blog from last winter entitled "The Hat With Flaps Factor" for more on that topic. True one survives the winters to get to the time of year known as summer. Summer here is relished. Summer in more Southern climes is survived in much the same way Chicagoans survive the winter. Trouble is that in Chicago in summer it's glorious. Down South, in winter, it's still godawful. It's not cold enough to snow, but it's still cold enough to be miserable. It starts raining in December and it doesn't stop until May or June.

In Dallas everyone holes up in their homes with air conditioning in the summer and go to their air conditioned cars to their air conditioned offices, malls, and restaurants. In the winter they stay indoors in their heated homes and go to their heated cars to their heated offices, malls, and restaurants. Indoors year round. There may be a short window of opportunity for enjoying the outdoors in spring and fall, but it's indoors for the most part, and these places are built around freeways and parking lots. Got to drive everywhere you go.

Got to tell you, I'll take 80-85 degrees in summer over 90-95 degrees (and assorted 100s thrown in) any day. I'll take 20 degrees and snowing over 35-45 degrees and drizzling rain in the winter any day. And living in Streeterville I'll take the ability to walk anywhere I want over getting in my car and driving everywhere any day, as well. The springs, in truth, do remain pretty cold for a long time, because of the water temperature and consequent "lake effect." The flip side of that, though, is we have the longest, warmest autumns you could imagine. The water is still warm for a long time and it keeps us warm on the shore until the water finally gives up the ghost and gets cold for winter.

If, in the winter, when it just gets darned cold, and the snow begins to fly, and the wind is whipping between the tall buildings downtown, that is "The Hat With Flaps Factor," then the warmth we have currently begun to enjoy must be "The Shorts and Flip Flops Factor." It is a time for enjoying the weather and wearing as little as possible. It is a time for white people, such as I, to attempt the impossible, "to tan, perchance to brown." Truth is I get color in my skin, but I'm not sure it could be described as tan. I lived on a tropical island for two years, and all I achieved was deeper shades of red. It worked for me.

The hat with flaps factor brings with it the warm fuzzy dreams of hot toddies and fireplaces, while the shorts and flip flops factor brings warm fuzzy dreams of gin and tonics or frozen, blended drinks on a beach. They are the opposite ends of the spectrum, the yin and the yang of the meteorological year. The one balances the other and makes the other more special when it finally arrives. Right now it's the middle of the summer. Put on your shorts and flip flops. Get out the sunglasses. Have something cool to drink.

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